Parochialism and Church callings

Scott’s excellent post on comparative advantage and using opportunity cost in considering ward callings provided some impetus for me to articulate one of the concerns I currently have with how we approach callings.  Scott noted that ‘supply generally exceeds demand’.  Though there are some areas of the Church where this might not be accurate (i.e. my Ward) I am sure that this is generally true in a wide variety of areas.  Moreover, if this accurate it suggests an excellent question: What do we do when the Ward is saturated?

Many of the people I have known in the US, specifically those on the West coast or in the Mid-west, have a very different Church experience to me; primarily because their wards are numerically large.  A very talented and capable friend has taught primary with his wife for a number of years, served on an activities committee (where they organised 2 activities per year) and was recently called to be in an Aaronic Priesthood adviser.  If you speak to most returned missionaries in areas of the world where demand is (perhaps) greater than supply they become the president of the Aaronic Priesthood within weeks of returning home.  Are we under-utilising people in our wards by providing callings for them which have an opportunity cost which is too low?  My point is that it did not take my friend and his equally capable wife to teach a class of primary children, rather at least one of them could have been used elsewhere.  But where, if all the callings have been filled?

The world is a big place and our wards can become parochial if we reinforce our inwardly focused approach to Church service.  My modest proposal is to create responsibilities which call people to serve with or among those not of our faith.  Volunteer groups are in desperate need of people who can assist in a sustained fashion over an extended period of time.  This is exactly what Mormons specialize in.  Could we not ask one of our local ward members to volunteer at a homeless shelter or at a Women’s refuge?  Could we not extend callings to work as mentors for children who are struggling at school?

There will, of course, be some logistical challenges in pursuing such a course.  Yet, if we are destined as a Church to be numerically small (which I think we are) then we need to find other ways to start bringing the benefits of our culture and religion to the world.

Comments

  1. Dustin Miles says:

    Its simple, really. Just call the talented members who live in saturated areas to move to those areas where members are in demand.

    :)

  2. Amen to #1. Or at least encourage them to move.

    I like the idea of asking people to serve in community programs. My only worry is that wards that struggle to find enough people to fill callings (such as mine, where we don’t have the manpower to fill important callings such as executive secretary) will also be asked to participate.

    Obviously, such an approach would need to be ward-specific. Judging by how many people in my ward currently serve in stake callings rather than in ward callings (even when they’re more needed in the ward), I don’t have much faith in a stake determining who should serve in volunteer positions. I think such determinations would need to be made on a local level by the bishopric, who knows exactly how many people he can spare.

  3. In my first BYU ward, my calling was to go to the Provo state hospital on Sundays and walk the residents to their chapel. We also tried to go once a month on a Saturday to play games with the residents. I don’t know if that was a ward thing, or a stake thing, but it was a great experience, and I think it could be replicated elsewhere.

  4. Tim, agreed. This certainly applies to Wards where supply is greater than demand, as Scott notes. Though even in the small Ward I am a member of I think there is more that could be done.

    David G., great suggestion; though I fear this is still focused upon helping our own to get to our meetings. Perhaps this disposition narrows too much the scope of our influence in the world.

  5. My branch is so small, each person is having to work in more than one calling. Since I’m a person who has never liked having a calling (I tend to get stressed out), I am wondering, why is it so necessary that over-saturated wards give callings to everyone? Does everyone really need to have a calling? Actually, if the callings extended into something real-world, like working with an illiterate child, I think a lot of people would get really excited by that. I know I would!

  6. Totally agree with meems. One of my favorite wards was the one where I didn’t have a calling at all. I ended up spending my Sundays sitting with a woman from China who spoke little English and needed a friend. I couldn’t have done that with my typical nursery calling. And I don’t have a calling right now, but I still get to organize sacrament meeting, give a talk every week, teach Primary, and do all the visiting teaching for the entire country. Who needs callings?

    I really wish people could be called with specific ideas of things to do in the community.

  7. Aside from your assertion that being a Primary teacher is an unimportant/easy calling, I agree. I think this is already done in some wards, and I, for one, would welcome expansion. It seems that there are a good number of members I can think of for whom such a community-based calling would be personably preferable to a ward-based calling.

    Better yet, let’s untether Cubs and BSA from the ward and instead “call” parents of involved boys to volunteer with community-based packs. Win win.

  8. I was in a BYU ward from 2006 – 2007 that had an after-school tutoring program. There were several people in the ward that had callings related to the program. Once a week we went to a nearby chapel to tutor children from a Spanish-speaking branch.

    The program was put together by the bishopric while I was there. If I recall, we had at least one General Authority stop by to see it in action, and there seemed to be interest in starting it up in other BYU wards. I’m not sure what ever came of it.

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    “My point is that it did not take my friend and his equally capable wife to teach a class of primary children, rather at least one of them could have been used elsewhere”

    The reason they are both called is that men are not to be alone in a Primary calling; they are supposed to serve with their wives or another man. I understand the point you are trying to make re saturation, but this isn’t the right example to use. The issue of men in Primary is a whole ‘nother post.

  10. John,

    The Stanford singles wards have the same program, or at least they did five or so years ago. I worked evenings, and so was only able to participate in it on a substitute basis, but from what I could tell it was very successful.

    I spent a year in an over-saturated ward in Southeastern Idaho, and taught Sunbeams with my wife. I never felt like part of the ward, mainly because I had little occasion to spend time with other men in the ward, outside of my hometeaching duties. A long-term community service project would have been a great blessing.

  11. Julie,

    Explain to me again why the man has to be in there?

  12. Ben Johnson says:

    Like ESO I take a little bit of an issue with the intimation that primary callings are somehow ‘bottom of the barrel’ callings. My wife is primary president in our ward so I happen to have a dog in this fight.
    I don’t want to sidetrack the post so I’ll just say I think primary gets the short end of the stick many times when it comes to callings. To wit, I’ve seen people called out of primary to serve in ‘more important’ callings but I’ve never seen it in reverse.

  13. .newhopechurchmn.org/resources/transportationministry.
    There are many examples on Google of church Tansportation Ministries. I read of one where three churches were on the same block. The bus made stops at regular bus stops. Then picked up and returned for all three churches.

  14. I guess I am the only one who disagrees that ward members should be formally “called” to do outside volunteer work. I think most church members already do such things if they have time. I don’t see why the Bishop needs to assign them.

  15. Starfoxy says:

    Tim,
    Explain to me again why the man has to be in there?
    Maybe *he* is the one the bishop felt inspired to call, and his wife is just there as an escort. Maybe there are kids in the class who need to see the influence and example of a righteous man up close. Maybe his wife is a stick-in-the-mud and all the kids would be bored out of their minds and learn to hate primary without him there. Or, or or,

  16. Sorry.

    Guess I’m a bit bitter about my own experience. It seems like primary is, especially for men, a bit of a black hole where people can be placed and then forgotten about. Women in primary have the opportunity to socialize with other women in primary on a regular basis; men usually don’t have the same kind of opportunity to socialize with other men.

    I agree that there may be a reason to have a man in the primary, but I think men dread the calling for good reason. It’s not fun to be that isolated from other men, especially in a culture that seems to discourage nonmarital male/female friendships.

    Now back to the point of the post…

  17. Aaron R – Best idea I’ve heard in a long time.

  18. Mark Brown says:

    I am enthusiastically and wholeheartedly on board with this suggestion. Many of our callings are of the “make work” variety. As Bishop Glen L. Pace said, we can’t let our light shine if we always keep it under the bushel of our meetinghouses. Latter-day saints need to make their influence felt by serving the people among whom they live.

  19. Julie M. Smith says:
  20. Julie M. Smith says:

    OK, link didn’t quite work. You want 11.8.1.

  21. I’m in a college town ward in the mid-west. We are part of several inter-faith organizations that provide food to the homeless, Christmas presents to low-income children, and our building actually houses homeless families about 3 times a year (they stay for one week at a time, then go to another church in the organization).

    All of these endeavors are excellent and tie us to the community and to people outside our normal spheres. But — it is usually extremely hard to get volunteers to fill all the time slots and volunteers slots that we need. Our week that we host the guest families — it is like pulling teeth to get all the needs filled. And they aren’t hard things — it is bringing dinner to the church and eating with the guest families, providing an activity, etc. I don’t know if our participation would run any smoother if we had people “called” to fill those roles. We do have a few people called as the ward reps to the community service organizations but everything else is volunteer.

  22. Swisster says:

    I wish the bishop could look at the talent in the ward and sometimes structure callings around those people, rather than structuring the people around the pre-fab callings.

    I can think of only one example of when members served the community by way of a calling (or maybe it was a “PR” calling!): About 10 years ago, I worked for an educational software company in SLC that donated computers loaded with its own learn-to-read software to an LDS stake center, a Catholic church, and a black baptist church. Kids of any religion or none were invited to improve their literacy at this after school program. As an employee, I visited all three sites. The LDS site was run by people called by the bishop.

  23. Aaron R. says:

    I did not say (and certainly never meant to imply that Primary was either unimportant or easy). My comment is that either of those two individuals could have performed that role admirably on their own.

  24. Chris Gordon says:

    I’m sure many bishops would be grateful for the problem of overabundant supply of willing, diligent members.

    I’ll play GA’s advocate here for a minute: there ought be nothing diminishing about being “stuck” in the primary (or nursery for that matter, bless their hearts). There ought be nothing to hold back a brother without an “important” calling from being the best home teacher ever. There ought be nothing to hold back a family from enjoying a quiet respite from the more time-consuming callings and use the found time to up the quality of FHE, temple attendance, date nights, etc.

    That being said, the common thing to do in areas where the church is still developing is to aggressively promote ward “mitosis.” My understanding from my mission was that it had been found that a ward would reach sort of a critical mass where, if it didn’t divide and artificially promote the scarcity, the scarcity would come on its own through inactivity.

    Maybe that line of thinking needs to be implemented stateside. It tends to force you to simplify and keep you involved at a higher level.

  25. Your link to the Handbook does not support your position. There is some latitude here for whether a man must be accompanied.

  26. Chris Gordon says:

    P.S. Diatribe coming: I agree wholeheartedly with any leader who encourages his families, especially the younger ones, to move out to where there is greater opportunity to serve.

    I find little that could be more contrary to BYU’s mission and purpose (to the extent that there is one that really exists), for example, than a young man and a young woman attending there, using it to springboard to a quality education and career path, only to move to Sandy or elsewhere and bloat a Utah ward.

    Out here in Denver, our stake has quite a few young families who are pursuing post-graduate education, many of whom fit into the above-mentioned category, and he challenged them to really pray about whether or not the Lord would have them, stay out of Utah. He suggested that maybe it’s not the best thing for their spiritual growth much less the growth of the kingdom for them to move back home to spend Sunday dinners between Mom and Dad’s house and the in-laws, and I applauded him for it.

  27. Just to reiterate: my post did not claim that working in Primary was somehow a less important calling only that in this instance, either of the two people involved could have managed to teach that class.

  28. Aaron, I get what you’re trying to say, but, having worked in Primary in various capacities, I’d much rather have team teachers in Primary than solo teachers. Team teachers can split up teaching responsibilities, they can allow for backup when one teacher is sick, they can provide more discipline or an extra lap for children who are having a hard time, they can sit with other classes during sharing time when other teachers are out, etc. I’ve also loved having male teachers in Primary although, as Tim points out, not all male teachers may like being there.

    Has your experience working in Primary been different?

  29. Karen H. says:

    I think it’s a little odd that people are saying the church should encourage people to move to this place or that. A decision to move is based on job opportunity, economics, family support, social connections, etc. No one except that individual or family is fully cognizant of all the issues. Why should it be “the church’s” business to encourage, interfere, etc? A church is a place for people to worship God, not a social engineering experiment on manipulating demographics. I really have a bad reaction to the idea that religion should interfere with individual autonomy when questions of spirituality are not at issue.

    Aaron, I love your post, and the fact that it focuses on service. I remember hearing you talk about this, and was hoping that you’d write up a post. I think it’s a great idea.

  30. Matt W. says:

    Karen:

    I don’t think the church should ask people to move, but it may behoove the church to ask people to go to a different ward, if they are needed there. I’ve seen this done for the office of Bishop, but I think it could be done for other roles as well.

  31. I would hope that the members would take it upon themselves to find opportunities to serve the communities in which they live if they find themselves with the means to do so.

    They shouldn’t need a call from the bishop.

  32. nat kelly says:

    Seems like the best solution for this problem is to stock up the Primary with lots of men!

    But then what would we do with all those women who are just tearing and clawing at each other to get those coveted primary callings, where they feel so involved in the relief society’s community of women, and not at all overwhelmed that they are stuck with the kids again?

  33. nat kelly says:

    I think the idea of community-based callings is excellent. It makes at least as much sense as having ward missionaries.

    In my ward in Philly, we did host some classes open to the community – computer literacy classes, literacy in general classes, addiction recovery, etc. We were doing real work for people and it was phenomenal. Hell, I’d say just cancel Sunday School and turn that hour into one of community involvement research.

  34. Chris, excellent points and as one who has lived outside of the Western Mormon enclaves my entire life except the brief sojourn in Provo for school, I couldn’t agree more with your mitosis theory. Often it comes down to an enlightened Stake leadership recognizing that smaller Wards actually drive greater activity. But you also have to balance the need for a large enough Youth program to sustain your teens and ensure their participation.

    I participated in the dissolution of a Ward that eventually shrank too small to be self sustaining due to the loss of pillar families over the space of several years. Shifting demographics reverted the area back to one Ward as it had been 20 years previously while some members were divided out to a third Ward on the boundaries.

    I’ve always been grateful to my parents who decided that moving away from the West was absolutely necessary since they wouldn’t be needed in an area with “too many Mormons.”

  35. In our stake, we have a mix of very robust, growing wards with an overabundance of talent, and a few smaller struggling wards with the corresponding scarcity. Part of this is due to urbanization as young families move out to new areas from the older city core, leaving some wards with a lot of older, retired couples, and few young families.

    Our ward is right in the middle. We have a lot of older neighborhoods, but also a lot of apartments where new young couples working for Microsoft move in and out.

    However, we still generally have a surplus. On several occasions, families or couples have been asked to attend another ward, one of the struggling ones, or the Spanish speaking branch, for a year to help beef up their leadership.

    But I really like the idea of encouraging, rather than calling, folks that are underutilized to volunteer in the community. If a request comes in from the community for help, then calling someone to fill it seems more appropriate.

  36. Chris Gordon says:

    While I agree with the principle of what you’re saying, the church has a macro mission of which coming to worship is a part.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m one who would strongly prefer not to have any calling at all. Unfortunately, I don’t live in some place like Mesa, where that might be an actual possibility; in virtually every ward I’ve ever lived in it has been a challenge to try to staff the basic church program.

    About 20 years ago there was a RS presentation on a wheels-on-meals type program in the community. My wife volunteered, and she still delivers meals on Fridays, all these years later. There has to be some personal commitment like that; if we try to do community outreach as a calling or an assignment, people will tend to flake out of actually doing it. I wouldn’t want to make a commitment to a community program as a church leader and then watch my flock not step up and do it.

  38. I may live in one of the church’s most super-saturated stakes (certainly no other stake has more general authorities living within its boundaries); a boundary realignment merged us with a ward that didn’t even have an elders’ quorum – every man in that ward is a high priest. We have 600 adults at sacrament meetings, and a 300-member Relief Society sits packed in the chapel while the teacher uses an overhead projector instead of a whiteboard. There is no calling for me, and statistically I can’t expect even to speak in church more than once every three or four years (if that — the bishop is one of those stuck-in-a-rut men who arranges his whole program with two phone calls, so only married couples speak or pray; I may *never* be permitted to participate).

    Community service instead of church service may help soften the distinct emptiness of being unneeded at church, but only barely. I want to serve *in church,* too. It doesn’t matter how many turkeys I send to the food bank or how many angel wishes I fill at the local mall when I’m alone on holidays and what I really want is to fix a meal for my own family. In the same way, community service is *not* the same as serving in the church.

  39. Winnipeg, Canada needs people. One ward has older people who have been there done that, bought the t-shirt, and recent immigrants and older immigrants who don’t speka english, all great people and a very few young couples. They need people, please come!

  40. Ardis,

    I’ve always loved how frank you are about your desires and what it is like to live as a single woman in the church. I have said many time that my relationship with the church became much easier when I fulfilled my destiny to become a complete stereotypical white, Mormon male with a wife and then children. Because I married relatively late (28), I had enough time to get a glimpse of how singles are marginalized. Not coincidentally, once married I became a lot more attractive to those who extend callings.

  41. Kevin, I always though that the Wards should have been involved in the PADS program (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) but that conversation also grounded to a halt quickly whenever it was brought up specifically for the reason you outline. Well, that and the issues of liability – there are certain lines that apparently one cannot cross even though I think it would more completely engage us with the communities where we live AND show true charity.

    It’s a question I struggle with now in a Bishopric where we discuss how to engage our members in more community outreach. The requirement is finding those STP who are passionate about serving outside the Church boundaries. As a result, at best we get a service activity once or twice a year where we can then pat ourselves on the back for having contributed to the community and enhanced the local Mormon image. There has to be a way though and it’s something I want to figure out for our Ward.

  42. Ardis, what a wonderful reminder of the unity and sense of belonging that callings inspire. I hate not being needed, but not even being considered…ugh. Your ward sounds so huge.

    I don’t like it, but it is helpful for me to have some callings I don’t like. My last calling was conducting the music in Relief society. I felt useless, but the pianist I worked with is wonderful…so I got to meet her.

  43. Because I play the piano and am willing to play the organ, as long as I live outside the Mormon Corridor, I always know EXACTLY what callings I am going to get. I am now on my fifth Primary President as the Primary pianist, and only the Bishop has been in his calling longer than I have been the organist. In a way, those callings are very like being a GA in that I am pretty sure I will only be released when I die, or when I am physically no longer able to do the job, after which I will receive Emeritus status.

  44. John Mansfield says:

    There are three areas of service I have seen involve the LDS Church with the community.

    Family History. When I was called to man a shift at the stake’s Family History Center, I found myself spending Tuesday evenings with an amateur expert in Polish genealogy also on the staff, though not a member of the LDS Church. I think non-members are a significant portion of staff and patrons at most Family History Centers.

    Boy Scouts. Each unit likely will have a few non-LDS boys and interaction with part-member families, but I am thinking here more of leaders and scouts involving themselves and their units in the work and fun of the district and the council.

    Emergency Preparedness. This one is less frequently engaged, but I was in one ward that actively liassoned with other community entities (Red Cross, county government, and such) to be part of the community’s preparedness resources.

  45. It is common practice in the US, and encouraged, I think by general leadership, to have two teachers per class. Like the Cub idea of 2-deep leadership, more than one adult prevents accusations of molestation, etc. This is ESPECIALLY true of men–they are always called in pairs, either with their spouse, or with another man. In my ward, every class has at least two teachers (my sons’ has 3–they are medical residents and cannot commit to weekly attendance). I am quite certain that this is also the case in your friend’s ward. It is not just a case of making up callings for excess people. Primary, as I am sure you know, is a major personnel drain on any unit.

  46. What, pray tell, is the opportunity for women to socialize with each other in Primary? Winking at each other across the room during sharing time? Saying “hello” as they pass each other in the hall, each on their way to their respective isolated classrooms? The very occasional training meeting? It seems that men have as much socialization in primary as women: none.

  47. Latitude as in, “if you absolutely do not have the manpower, the supervision will be done by a primary leader, instead.” Of course, your post is addressing an issue only in units which have over-ample manpower, so in those units, there would be two people called, as per instruction.

  48. LilyTiger says:

    You really had me there until the end. Then I started thinking about my own experience living outside of Utah, away from my family. As my parents grow older, I really regret that I am not there to take care of them. I regret that they won’t know my children as well. I regret all of the time I have missed with my family living outside of the Mormon Corridor. In sum, I get your point, but it comes at a great cost. I would suggest that for some, at least, there is great value in spending “Sunday dinners between Mom and Dad’s house and the in-laws.”

  49. Aaron R.,

    In a weak way, I think your idea has started to come to So. Cal, though the people involved in the community work are called as Public Relations Committee Member, or something like that. Within our stake we’ve now got regular assignments with at least one shelter arranged by these PR people.

    Interestingly, the PR push into public service has given women some fairly high leadership roles (and even some visibility). I was assigned to attend a Regional PR meeting, which, while presided over by an area authority, was conducted and run by the Regional PR director, who was a woman. And she didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable handing out public service assignments to all the SPs who were there. I left the meeting very inspired by the experience. Hopefully, there’ll be more of that and more “PR” people called.

  50. lindberg says:

    In a previous ward we took on the long-term committment of providing staff for a local soup kitchen. It was fairly low-key; a half-dozen volunteers for a few hours a couple of times a month. Unfortunately, like many things in the church, I think it ended up being mostly the same group of people who provided most of the work. Perhaps this is where the idea of making it a calling rather than asking for volunteers might be useful.

    That ward also always supplied all the staffing for a local voting precinct at election time.

  51. Karen,
    If you lived under BY__likely you would be told where to live, who you would marry (and how many), and what your job would be.

  52. I question the prevalence of wards that are truly full, saturated, or so brimming with active and talented members that they have to work hard to find callings for them all. I’ve been in many, many, wards and branches in the west, midwest, and southeastern states in my life, and I can truly only remember two wards that had this situation (both were in relatively affluent suburban areas in northern Utah). Mostly, it’s a been a mad scramble to find members willing and capable of staffing all the positions that are needed.

  53. Chris Gordon says:

    Classic example of the first part of his point which was to genuinely include the Lord in the decision. Surely caring for aging parents is a high priority. I’m sure he was speaking more to those young couples who aren’t willing to consider and probably should (consider, at least) cutting the apron strings a bit.

  54. Our ward has at least three primary classes with two male instructors.

  55. StillConfused says:

    Nice

  56. StillConfused says:

    My mother lives back east and her husband has a calling — even though he is Catholic.

    I am always interested to see what callings I receive (tie one kid to a chair in Primary and you are marked for life!) I always get the non-religious ones like Librarian or Building Scheduler. Which is perfect for me!!

  57. Molly Bennion says:

    One richly endowed ward in which we’ve lived creatively made up all kinds of posts so everyone would have a calling. The worst was the “Potty Coordinator,” a sister who was to sit in Primary and take children to the bathroom when they asked. Meanwhile, home and visiting teaching records weren’t stellar and the RS Pres, EQ Pres and Bishop were swamped meeting needs which could easily and wisely have been done by others. We need to engage more members in service within our ranks as well as without. My current ward needs help meeting economic needs; a richer ward in the suburbs generously and regularly helps us. Bless them, they came to us looking for a way to share. Encouraging, but not calling, members to serve in the community is also a great idea.

  58. Tim – the answer to your Exec Secretary problem would be solved if the ward could double its pool of talent available to serve in that calling and others by tapping the vast resources of the female population.

    And if nobody had to hold two callings because every adult was a PH holder, there’d be a lot more people with time and energy to reach outside of ward boundaries and into the community.

  59. Karen H. says:

    “How many,” really? I thought one was the only option for women. :) If I lived during BY’s time, I certainly would not be living under BY.

  60. Yeah, no. I was in primary the same time my wife was, in different capacities. She made very close friends with a number of women in there, and without doubt had a very real social net there. I being the only male was very much an outsider and had almost no social interaction with peers during my time there.

    I’m sure every ward’s primary is different, but across the board I’m sure that primary is more socially supportive of women.

  61. “The world is a big place and our wards can become parochial if we reinforce our inwardly focused approach to Church service. My modest proposal is to create responsibilities which call people to serve with or among those not of our faith. Volunteer groups are in desperate need of people who can assist in a sustained fashion over an extended period of time. This is exactly what Mormons specialize in. Could we not ask one of our local ward members to volunteer at a homeless shelter or at a Women’s refuge? Could we not extend callings to work as mentors for children who are struggling at school?”

    I think these are excellent ideas, and a good answer to what appears to be a real problem. In our elders quorum in Maryland we utilized the quorum (as much as we could) to do these sorts of things. The response was quite small, almost negligible you might say, but the effort was certainly not wasted, and I look back on those times with a feeling of enthrallment in my heart.

    The way this was done was by setting apart two elders (myself and another) and encouraging us to utilize the quorum as a service unit in the community. It was a brilliant move- it would be an entirely volunteer effort (not an “elders you have to do this or subject yourself to miserable guilt trips” effort) so the negative side to obligation was absent, it allowed us to creatively work within the community- which also made it useful as a missionary tool. One of my neighbors who isn’t a member was legitimately excited about this sort of thing, and his Mom didn’t seem a mite too displeased about him doing good either.

    All that said, I also think talent has a place in humble positions as well as what appear to be lofty ones. Perhaps there’s far greater good to be done by the possessor of great talent in the primary room than could be accomplished were the same person immersed in the heavy responsibilities that come with keys or with Relief Society responsibility.

    Still, to concede the author’s point, if there’s talent then it would probably be silly to overlook that when making decisions about callings. Yes, things are done by revelation, but we’re also expected to think first before we ask the Lord what He thinks. I also agree that having a facing outward instead of inward to approach is wise. That approach works wonderfully with individuals, why not groups?

    Good post. Good point.

  62. Why do you think it is your job to “engage our members in more community outreach”? Are they all just sitting around, with nothing to do, and no ability to make their own decisions about how to spend their time? If you find those who are “passionate about serving outside the Church boundaries”, won’t they already be doing just that?

  63. Dude, you don’t socialize with other women in Primary. You just sit there with the kids and then teach a lesson. It can feel like a black hole to female primary workers too.

  64. Matt,
    They do ask people to go to different wards quite often. I lived a stake where all the stake leadership was mostly from one ward, and Bishops of the other wards were only half the time from the ward boundaries they served in–as well as other ward leaders.

  65. Aaron R. says:

    As you probably have guessed my experience of working in primary is fairly limited, though I have been involved in it and taught regularly there for the last 4 years. My experience suggests that though it might be nice to have that extra support it is not necessary (though I can think of many cases where it might be depending upon the children).

  66. In my experience, all the workers outside of the presidency get no “social support” whatsoever. If your wife was getting together with sisters outside of primary time, that is not a primary thing, but a friends thing.

  67. I’m sure much is dependent on the ward, but in my experience women primary teachers do get social support. My wife made friends in the primary when we taught together. The primary presidency reached out to her. She socialized with other women during primary meetings and primary activities. She interacted with other women during sharing time.

  68. Peter Vousden says:

    Aaron, I agree with the sentiment of looking outward to wider community but feel It’s important to be doing it anyway. To be called by a church leader to do it dilutes the power of it. Its the corporate Church versus the individual desire to quietly be a Christian. I personally need some air to breath which isn’t controlled by the Church or determined by church leaders. If the Church calls people it can also summarily release them. I’ve been involved in a local charity on my own (and wife’s) initiative and I would wonder what our colleagues would think if we suddenly stopped participating because we had ben released. Mormons need their own space to make a difference without being called to do it.

  69. A leader leads, inspires, and encourages those around her to do better. The Church is working to strengthen our ties with our “neighbors” through meaningful service.

    The Helping Hands program provides priesthood leaders with an optional service opportunity for Church members and helps establish the name and reputation of the Church. It is a proven means of helping dispel stereotypes often held about the Church, showing that Latter-day Saints are Christians who contribute to the good of their communities.

    http://lds.org/service/humanitarian/helping-hands?lang=eng

    That is all.

  70. If there are wards w/so many members that it is hard to find callings, I hope that they would critically analyze the callings to see how duties could be divided/shared- for example calling “assistants” or”specialists” etc would help. Hopefully they could also review callings to make sure some aren’t serving in two callings when others don’t have even one calling, if others are qualified to perform a certain calling.

    Sometimes people have a lot to do but aren’t good at inviting others to share the joy of helping w/events. I once read something of a Bishop who had the dilemna of not enough calllings for members and he called some members to be a “celestial member”. To me that sounds like a great calling, to just be able to have the freedom to do what needed to be done, w/no limits due to restrictions from other callings,etc

    hen I was our rs secretay, I would have been wise to have asked for a newsletter specialist instead of me doing it. And when I was in primary, I would have loved extra teachers to share the class simply to enjoy chances to go to RS (ie alternating).

    And I’m totally w/#14- I also think community service need not be assigned out. I’ve heard of wards that have a service committee. One ward had a “helping hands” committee to organzie things such as blood drives.

    But I don’t think someone needs to say Sis so and so you are called to perform volunteer service at this agency.
    We are invited in scripture to do many things of our own free will, having available time in our lives makes this easier!
    Several years ago I was stressed due to having 3 callings at the time, once that was reduced I had time to get more involved in choosing some occasional volunteer service in the community- something I didn’t really have time or energy to do when I had the 3 callings.

  71. Okay ESO, I left room for the fact that every ward is different, and YMMV.

    But you’re saying that Men get exactly the same, in no possible way less, time with peers and emotional/social support when in a normal/average primary. 100% exactly the same, no variation at all. Seriously?

    If your wife was getting together with sisters outside of primary time, that is not a primary thing, but a friends thing.

    Its not that black and white. Social support has nothing to do with talking about things pertaining to primary or talking during primary time. The point is there are people in primary that she was able to make friends with. As Tim notes, its uncommon and frowned upon for male/female relationships to reach what we would consider to be “friends”.

  72. If my response came off as snotty it was not intended to be so. I see my role as finding ways to offer members opportunities to connect outside of the Ward to build relationships within the community – it’s what our Stake PR committee is asking us to do. And as a former WML I see it as one of the most effective ways to open conversations with nonmembers, by serving them. Don’t think of that as a covert conversion effort, see it instead as a way of breaking through the Mormon insular focus to let our light and love shine on others. The focus is on inspiring action, not forcing.

  73. Aaron R. says:

    Peter, I think that is a very persuasive objection. I have strong feelings about developing a personal ministry but I also sense that those who voluntarily take their service into the community are the minority and I see this as one way of just changing the way that local Wards think about service.

  74. I like what you said, too, Aaron about bringing what is best about Mormonism outward. This could certainly complement individual efforts, but add to them as well. I like to think that if ward members were called to serve at a shelter AS members of the church that they would be diligent and hard-working. As we know from our experiences with other callings, having some accountability often helps us make such an assignment a priority. Your idea could promote such accountability. And I agree with whomever suggested that such callings could be similar to ward missionary callings. In all honesty, a group of dedicated Latter-day Saints volunteering regularly at a food bank would probably do more to promote positive feelings towards the church than the efforts of the whole stake PR team combined.

  75. Naismith says:

    If wards in the intermountain west are as “saturated” as is described here, I think it’s kinda sad that people don’t get involved in other community organizations.

    After all, the great training that they got in the church should help them in other endeavors.

    I am involved with my local League of Women Voters group, which is a great non-sectarian, non-partisan group that does much good in encouraging informed voting. I assumed that the LWV in Utah and Idaho would be mostly Mormon. Uh, no. It turns out that, at least among the leadership, they are disproportionately non-LDS.

    What’s up with that? Do they view non-church groups as worldly, and thus suspect?

    Is this also true for Habitat for Humanity and other worthwhile groups?

  76. I know some stakes do get involved with things like March of Dimes, Red Cross blood drives, etc.–at least in Utah. Not sure how widespread this is, though.

  77. What’s up with that? Do they view non-church groups as worldly, and thus suspect?

    Some local groups don’t want significant LDS participation, especially at leadership levels. It’s one way some maintain their distinctness and separateness from the overwhelmingly LDS population.

  78. This is what I dislike about lessons on “service” during priesthood/rs. All we ever talk about is service to other church members. Service means cleanimg the chapel, doing home teaching, or missionary work. While these activities may be worthwhile, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to them. In fact, I find it ver un-christian that we don’t include more non-mormon service. We don’t volunteer with other organizations or areas in need because we’re too busy worrying about ward parties and getting in our monthly visits

  79. On of my favorite lessons on service included a handout from the red cross with service opportunities in our area.

  80. Late to the thread, but . . .

    1)To those who say that no official callings are necessary to serve in the community . . . I wish to ask, what do you want to accomplish in doing your community work? Your purpose will clarify the answer. A formal calling comes from God and gives not only purpose, but specific blessings and counsel in carrying out a task. It also organizes the Lord’s work- something we believe God is in the habit of doing (marvelous work and wonder). It gets confusing when we’re given enormous baptisimal covenants and then asked to go work iin an often un-organized ‘community’ field with no official direction, no buddies, no church backing except a vague statement here or there from the GAs saying it’s a good thing to do. THAT is how we are supposed to bring about the second coming??? No wonder it is taking so long. Even when we put our shoulders to the wheel in some non-sectarian community endeavor (which is GREAT) why NOT put some priesthood power behind it with a blessing and calling?

    I think of Mr. Roger’s (who was an ordained minister and theologian) and his work on TV which was actually his ministry–teaching children to have self esteem ‘by just being you’ and to love their neighbor. Didn’t his ecclesiastical ‘calling’ uniquely affect his work?

    2) Sorry to say, it’s sad, but true . . . that our imperfect social structure views various callings and activities with a social stigma. For the ultimate list, read ‘Seriously So Blessed’ the blog. Social clout comes with spiritual, philosophical, mega-leadership positions, not the humble day-to-day physical service. The spiritual trumps the temporal. Sorry, the community day-to-day and the organizations of mammon don’t equate with pharisaical clout. (Don’t agree with it, but won’t pretend it doesn’t exist.)

    3) S.T.O.P. Same ten old people. A management rut that wards often fall into. Bad for morale, stiffles creativity, change, etc.

  81. #14 Amen.

    This is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard yet. This sounds like a request to be “command[ed] in all things” (D&C 58:26). Is the goal here to make slothful and not wise servants? Otherwise, I’m already fully empowered to identify and engage in my own volunteer opportunities.

  82. Linda Sheldon says:

    My parents’ senior mission was to help out the Liberty 8th Ward in downtown Salt Lake. At the time the church was calling later middle aged couples from Salt Lake’s east bench to help out in the Liberty Stake and the Wells Stake. I think that calling people from other wards to help with struggling wards needs to be done more often. I am surprised that it isn’t done more with home teaching, visiting teaching, and service activities. There has been a strict policy of late of requiring your records to be in the ward that you live in. I think not always do personalities fit into one ward and maybe there is some room for flexibility and the sending of someone to a place where they could be utilized more would be a good idea.

  83. #81 – Your right to argue that people are already fully empowered to volunteer but why then do we have to be formally asked to care for each other in our ward? The fact is that although you may not need that, there are many people who do need that push. I know very few Mormons who perform regular service outside of the boundaries of the Church.

  84. #83 – To answer your question, I’d say the formal calling is perfectly appropriate for internal organization. Essentially, the active ward roster is a list of people who have volunteered and simply need an assignment. The same thing happens when I work at local schools: I show up willing and the person in charge tells me what classroom to go to.

    In response to “I know very few Mormons who perform regular service outside of the boundaries of the Church.” I’ll say few members may work with formal NPOs, but most Mormons I know do give regular spontaneous service outside the Church’s organization.

    As a middle ground, I think it would be fully appropriate for ward leadership to encourage members to volunteer in the community, even over the pulpit or in interviews. But to formally call someone to work with an external organization seems impractical as well as overstepping bounds.

  85. Ryan, you did not really answer my question. I agree that formal callings are appropriate. Rather my question was an attempt to ask why people are given callings if we do not need to be asked (or formally assigned) in order to serve each other.

    The problem with spontaneous service is that it lacks the structure and regularity that many of the people who are struggling with various social and emotional barriers in our community need. It is good to drop some flowers off or even to donate food or money, and yet this type of service has very little lasting impact upon the life of the poor, for example.

  86. I lived in the Liberty stake when we first got married. I think we were int he 9th ward. We had a huge problem getting people to fill callings. It was so bad that the week we moved in, our EQP moved out. 6 months later the 1st counselor moved out. 6 months after that when the 2nd counselor announced he was moving, we finally had a new EQP called. Meanwhile, there were dozens of couples going to what I like to call “Married Singles Wards.: IE married student wards. I think we need to get rid of the whole concept of “Student ward” except for YSA. How much more could our ward have benefited from some of those people who were attending at the U instead of serving in a ward in their actual community.

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